The Washigtnon Post - 03.04.2020

(Joyce) #1

friday, april 3 , 2020. the washington post eZ re A


Conte said “nationalist instincts”
would grow if “Europe is not up
to the challenge.”
Conte no doubt had in mind
Italy’s far-right League — the
country’s most popular party, ac-
cording to polls. League leader
matteo Salvini said that “once the
virus is defeated, we will have to
ask ourselves about the future of
the E.U.”
“Something like a pandemic
can only be addressed in a mean-
ingful way through international
cooperation,” said rosa Balfour,
director of Carnegie Europe, a
Brussels think tank. “If the bal-
ance tips in favor of national
positions, that could kill the E.U.”
Even before the coronavirus,
the E.U. had struggled to hold
some of it members in Central
Europe to account amid concerns
about rule of law, freedom of the
press, the judiciary and the rights
of minorities.
Europe’s response to orban’s
grab for unchecked power this
week was characteristically
toothless. Hungary’s “coronavi-
rus bill” allows orban to rule by
decree and bypass the national
assembly, declaring a state of
emergency with no end date. Half
of the E.U.’s member states re-
leased a statement condemning
the abuse of emergency mea-
sures, though they did not single
out Hungary by name.
meanwhile, the return to na-
tional borders could be seen as a
vindication for the continent’s
national populists like orban,
said To cci.
Although there are some sig-
nals that European countries
might be able to come together
on an economic rescue plan, the
short-term divisions could have
long-term consequences.
one emotive issue could be
how European countries manage
the lifting of restrictions on their
populations. “It could create
enormous resentment,” said
françois Heisbourg of the Inter-
national Institute for Strategic
Studies, a think tank. “You’re an
Italian and you’re considered as a
plague-bearer by the Germans.
This is where the real danger for
Europe lies.”
And broader questions of val-
ues and ideals will remain, ana-
lysts say, with the fundamental
assumption that open borders
and economies would bring
peace and prosperity increasing-
ly in question.
To cci said that although the
coronavirus fallout could bring
about the demise of the E.U.,
Europe could also emerge stron-
ger. That, though, would require
more than Europe has been able
to muster in previous crises. It
will demand more than “ the bare
minimum to pull through.”
loveday.morris@washpost.com
michael.birnbaum@washpost.com

birnbaum reported from brussels.
chico harlan in rome contributed to
this report.

the coronavirus pandemic


BY WILLIAM BOOTH
AND CHRISTINE SPOLAR

LONDON — Subbing in for Prime
minister Boris Johnson, who was
suffering from covid-19, Cabinet
office minister michael Gove on
Tuesday delivered some good
news: The “first of thousands” of
desperately needed new ventila-
tors will roll off the production
lines to be delivered to British
hospitals next week.
By the “first of thousands,” a
spokesman later clarified, Gove
meant the first 30 ventilators —
of the 30,000 new machines the
government seeks.
Those two numbers — 3 0 and
30,000 — and the chasm they
represent could mean life or
death for many as Britain moves
toward peak infection this
month.
To underline the stakes, the
British medical Association an-
nounced this week it is finalizing
guidelines to help doctors decide
which patients with serious un-
derlying medical conditions may
be denied access to ventilators if
there are not enough devices for
all.
Britain, like the United States,
is scrambling to acquire ventila-
tors to care for the critically ill
coronavirus patients who need
the oxygen machines to pump air
into lungs ravaged by the virus.
There are 8,000 ventilators
available today in England, home
to 56 million people. Britain has
far fewer critical-care beds and
breathing machines than Germa-
ny, france, Italy and Spain.
Three weeks ago, the prime
minister issued a plea for help to
British manufacturers to switch
their idled assembly lines over to
make ventilators.
Health Secretary matt Han-
cock called this “national effort”
unprecedented in peacetime. The
British media quickly recalled


the life-or-death struggle of the
late 1930 s, when morris motors
turned its factories from assem-
bling boxy sedans to building
Spitfire fighter planes.
And British industry did an-
swer the call, even as the experts
cautioned that these are sophisti-
cated medical devices, not bicycle
pumps.
Disease modelers warn that
Britain will face a peak of cases in
the next two to three weeks.
Depending on whether strict so-
cial-distancing measures contin-
ue to be enforced through the
spring and summer, this April
wave could be the first of many.
National Health Service offi-
cials say they have enough venti-
lators on hand for existing inten-

sive-care unit cases. If the num-
ber of cases explodes, as forecast,
they may struggle.
The U.K. reported more than
34,000 confirmed cases and
about 3,00 0 deaths, with
Wednesday’s total of 569 deaths a
daily record.
To triple its supply of ventila-
tors in weeks, the British govern-
ment is tapping three distinct
supply chains.
The government is seeking to
import machines from abroad
and also pushing Britain’s small
domestic ventilator manufactur-
ers to massively scale up produc-
tion of existing designs. A nd
finally, the government has con-
tracted with a vacuum cleaner
maker to introduce an entirely

new design.
Each supply stream faces for-
midable challenges.

a new, as yet untested,
prototype
The engineering firm run by
Sir James Dyson, the billionaire
inventor best known f or his vacu-
um cleaners and hair dryers,
developed a prototype in a mere
10 d ays, which his company plans
to build at the company’s labora-
tory in a former wartime royal
Air force base.
The government placed an or-
der for 10,000 of Dyson’s ma-
chines, called the CoVent. The
inventor said he would donate
5,000 more.
“This new device can be manu-

factured quickly, efficiently and
at volume,” Dyson announced.
“The race is now on to get it into
production.”
Dyson partnered with the
Te chnology Partnership, a Cam-
bridge-based group of science
and innovation companies with
expertise in medical equipment.
Dyson was joined by the defense
firm Babcock.
The Dyson machine is still
awaiting approval from the
health-care products regulatory
agency, which usually takes
months but promises to move
more swiftly than ever before.
As remarkable as their turn-
around may be, Dyson may not
begin full production for weeks
or longer.

pairing manufacturing giants
with small ventilator firms
Britain has only a handful of
domestic producers of ventila-
tors, including the companies
Penlon and Smiths Group, and
they’re both small shops.
“To provide some context, Pen-
lon and Smiths ordinarily have
combined capacity for between
50 and 60 ventilators per week,”
said Dick Elsy, chief executive of
the High Value manufacturing
Catapult, a group of manufactur-
ing research centers here assist-
ing the two mom-and-pops, with
partners like the giants ford,
Siemens, mercedes, mcLaren and
meggitt.
“We are targeting production
of at least 1,500 units a week of
the Penlon and Smiths models
combined within a matter of
weeks,” Elsy said in a statement.
He cautioned, “Ventilators are
intricate and highly complex
pieces of medical equipment and
it is vital that we balance the twin
imperatives of speed of delivery
with the absolute adherence to
regulatory standards that is
needed to ensure patient safety.”

It is Penlon that is producing
the first 30 British-made ventila-
tors that are now headed into
NHS hospitals.
The government is also ready
to buy the Smiths ventilator,
which is used in ambulances.
Industry partners said they could
have 10,000 of the Penlon model
and about 5,000 of the Smiths
ready within weeks.

Like buying ‘on eBay’
There is already an intense
competition worldwide to buy
machines from existing suppli-
ers. recently, New York Gov.
Andrew m. Cuomo complained,
“It’s like being on eBay with 50
other states, bidding on a ventila-
tor.”
Britain hopes to get at least
8,000 ventilators from abroad.
Gove, who is a leader of Brit-
ain’s virus response, blamed
“communication confusion” over
the government missing a dead-
line to join the European Union’s
effort to acquire ventilators.
Gove told the BBC that the E.U.
procurement plan offered “noth-
ing that we can’t do as an inde-
pendent nation that being part of
that scheme would allow us to
do.”
Aides to Gove stressed that
Britain is no longer a member of
the European Union and would
find its own way.
Neil Campbell, CEo of Inspira-
tion Healthcare, said his compa-
ny was importing ventilators for
the NHS from Israel and the
United States. At $5 million, it
was the largest order the compa-
ny has ever received for ventila-
tors.
Ye t even that number illus-
trates the scale of need. A $5 mil-
lion order for the kind of top-end
ventilators placed in ICUs —
which sell for $25,000 and more
— might fetch just 200 devices.
william.booth@washpost.com

As Britain galvanizes ventilator production, race against time is daunting


stefan rousseau/pool/reuters
Ventilators are readied at the exCel London convention center as it is converted into the temporary
national Health Service nightingale Hospital. B ritain’s coronavirus peak is expected this month.

cure supplies, and they have sent
more aid to hard-hit Italy than
China has. But the past week has
seen a reemergence of a north-
south rift over how to handle the
economic response. The union is
also being pulled east and w est,
as Hungarian Prime minister
Viktor orban has used emergen-
cy powers to effectively suspend
democracy, riding roughshod
over Europe’s basic principles of
the rule of law.
Collectively, these tensions
could overwhelm the alliance.
“This could be the straw that
breaks the camel’s back,” Nath-
alie To cci, director of the Interna-
tional Affairs Institute in Italy.
“The reason why coronavirus is
such an epochal challenge is not
that it brought things out of the
blue. It touches on all spheres
and does so by accentuating dy-
namics that are already there. It’s
as if it is bringing the extreme out
of everything.”
Norbert röttgen, a German
politician jockeying to succeed
Chancellor Angela merkel, lik-
ened the continent’s infighting to
“a grueling trench war,” as he
joined the chorus of voices warn-
ing that the E.U. is in grave peril.
The debate has indeed been
bitter. After nine countries, in-
cluding Italy and Spain, request-
ed financial support in the form
of “corona bonds,” Dutch finance
minister Wopke Hoekstra said
Brussels should study why some
governments lacked the financial
wherewithal to fight the crisis on
their own.
That comment, made during a
private conference call of E.U.
finance ministers, touched off a
firestorm, since it sounded to
critics as though the Dutch were
trying to turn a health crisis,
whose origins had little to do
with the actions of any European
government, into a fiscal morali-
ty play.
The remarks were “repug-
nant,” said Portuguese Prime
minister António Costa. “Either
the E.U. does what needs to be
done or it will end,” he added.
A separate videoconference
call last week among E.U. leaders,
which was intended to be a fairly
brief check-in, spiraled into un-
usually angry discussion and ex-
tended for more than three
hours, diplomats familiar with
the meeting said.
“The climate that seems to
reign among heads of state and


european union from a


Leaders


fear new


strain could


split E.U.


cial assistance.
Now, with needs even more
acute, some are left w ondering: If
the richer E.U. countries are not
willing to support their strug-
gling neighbors, what’s the point
of membership at all?
“Ten or 20 years from now, we
will all remember what happened
at this time, like all Germans
remember where we were when
the Berlin Wall came down,” s aid
Holger Schmieding, chief econo-
mist for Berenberg Bank.
“The political impression we

government and the lack of Euro-
pean solidarity pose a mortal
danger to the European Union,”
Jacques Delors, a 94 -year-old
french politician who played a
leading role in the creation of the
bloc’s modern form, warned in a
rare statement.
The debate has reopened
wounds that had just barely
scarred o ver from the 2008 finan-
cial crisis, when Germany led
Europeans in imposing painful
austerity measures on Greece
and Italy in exchange for finan-

create now is decisive,” Schmied-
ing said. “This is a crisis where
people who believe in sides can
easily gain.”
The European Commission
has gone to pains to point out acts
of European “solidarity,” includ-
ing how Germany and Luxem-
bourg have taken in coronavirus
patients from france and Italy.
france has donated a million
masks to Italy, while Germany
has sent seven tons of medical
gear, it pointed out in a recent
fact sheet. The commission also

has set up a joint stockpile of
medical equipment.
But with the early reluctance
to share supplies, and the re-
sounding “no” f rom northern Eu-
ropean countries on corona
bonds, it’s been hard to compete
with the television images of
China flying in boxes of aid and
russian soldiers convoying into
northern Italy.
“Europe really is going to have
to come together and overcome
its initial stumbles if it wants to
win this battle of narratives,” s aid
Noah Barkin, a senior visiting
fellow at the German marshall
fund. “It really can’t afford to be
seen as bickering at a time like
this.”
While that applied during the
financial crisis a decade ago,
Barkin said, it’s e ven more crucial
now, given “a much more hostile
United States and a rising China,
which has shown it’s going to
take full advantage of this crisis
to promote its own interests.”
Another difference from 2008:
nationalist, Euroskeptic and anti-
democratic forces have gained
ground.
In an interview this week with
the Spanish newspaper El País,
Italian Prime minister Giuseppe

Jonathan nackstrand/agence france-presse/getty images

francesca Volpi/bloomberg neWs

aBoVe: The e.u. flag waves
outside Stockholm’s city hall.
LeFT: a russian soldier s tands
near a decal on a truck with
russian and italian flags that
says “From russia with Love”
in ponte San pietro, i taly. Both
russia and China are providing
italy with medical aid.
Free download pdf